Most common Desk Injuries; and how SAANA Classic can help reduce pain and further injury

I’ve recently completed my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certification with SAANA Yoga Downtown Toronto, and this is the article I wrote as my final paper. For your information: SAANA Classic is a Hatha style sequence designed for all yoga levels. It is meant to help a practitioner build strength in their yoga practice and to avoid wrist injury or pain.

The most common Desk Injuries are:

  1. Posterior cervical dorsal syndrome or “computer back” (c-curved spine, head too far forward)
  2. Mouse shoulder, a common Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) caused by holding the arm outstretched for long periods of time.
  3. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, arises primarily from compression of the median nerve as it passes through the wrist. It is the most common and most costly RSI
  4. Tennis Elbow, or lateral epicondylitis is another type of RSI. It is a tendonitis affecting the common extensor tendon at the lateral (outside) area of the elbow. 
  5. Lumbar sprains and strains
  6. Disc injuries
  1. Posterior Cervical Dorsal Syndrome

Is a very common injury in modern society where there is an excessive curving of the lower, middle, and upper back; a forward drawn head; rounded shoulders; and excessive forward curving of the cervical spine. It is a natural result of prolonged sitting work, especially with computers or high cellphone use. These postural defects can cause:

  • headaches
  • excessive muscle tension in your neck, chest, shoulders, arms and forearms, back, hips, glutes and thighs
  • strains and sprains in your upper body
  • joint dysfunction and sprains in your neck, back, and ribs
  • increased loading on the intervertebral discs of your spine
  • impaired function of your diaphragm, causing the muscles lifting your upper ribs and shoulders to become overactive and subject to problems

Mouse Shoulder

Mouse Shoulder comes from prolonged elevation and bracing of the shoulder to accommodate an inappropriately positioned mouse, or performing short range movements of the mouse, or both. Mouse shoulder can develop into a more serious rotator cuff injury.

Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

It is the most common nerve compression injury in the body and it is the costliest RSI. Typical symptoms include

  • tingling and numbness in the thumb, index and middle fingers
  • night pain
  • weakness in grasping, thumb and index finger pinching, and other thumb movements
  • clumsiness, such as awkward hand movements and dropping things

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is a very common cause of elbow and forearm pain. It can cause mild to severe pain in the lateral elbow and may be aggravated by grasping and excessive finger motions. The pain may also radiate up the arm or down into the forearm.

Lumbar Sprains and Strains

Lumbar spine sprains (ligament or joint capsule tears) and strains (muscle or tendon tears) are common in office workers due to the high loads placed on the spine during sitting. Sprains and strains may cause back and hip pain as well as muscle swelling and tightness.

Disc Injuries

Increased loading on the spine due to prolonged and faulty sitting postures may cause sprains of the outer (annular) fibers of the intervertebral discs. In more advanced cases the nucleus of the disc may protrude into or even through the annular fibers of the disc, resulting in a herniated disc. Herniated discs may cause back pain, leg pain and altered sensation down to the foot, weakness, walking difficulties, or combination of these symptoms.

How SAANA Classic Can Help

Unfortunately, there is no ergonomic set up on Earth that will prevent injuries related to desk related work. The only way to avoid further pain and stress on the body is if you take a break every 20-30 minutes to get up move, and change positions. But how often do we do that? Stress, long hours doing repetitive movements, and general muscle fatigue, it is no surprise that desk related injuries are the most common and re-occurring injury. However, within SAANA Classic, there is plenty of opportunity to participate in postures, breathing exercises, and therapy techniques to balm the pain that comes from desk work and the stress associated with it.

  1. The Breathing Exercises that are performed at the top and bottom of the SAANA Classic Sequence help to counteract the lack of deep belly breaths associated with desk work. Stress, long hours at the desk, poor posture, all contribute to us not being able to take full, long deep breaths. Instead, we only breathe into our upper chest, causing us to hyperventilate while we are in this stress cycle. Square breath and Villoma help to ground the body and train you to take longer deeper breaths into the belly. These breaths help us to expand into our chest, shoulders, ribcage and upper back. Allowing these muscles to relax so that we can process the emotions stored in our bodies from being in this stress cycle throughout the day.
  2. SAANA Classic is designed with the health of the spine, hips, hamstrings and shoulders in mind. There aren’t many flows in SAANA Classic. This is to avoid wrist pain or any further injury associated with desk related afflictions. In fact, the first three sun salutations are modified. The majority of the exercises found in the sequence are there to stretch the muscles that become tight during desk work (glutes, chest, lower back, hips) and strengthen the muscles and joints that become weakened during prolonged sitting (abdominals, spine, shoulders, and glutes).
  3. SAANA Classic offers an opportunity to discover Yoga as a type of movement therapy to add to your overall wellness practice to help alleviate pain and stress stored in the body within community. Movement therapy done within community has a lasting impact on your ability to recover from any stress related pain. SAANA Classic is accessible and allows for people a way into the Yoga community and personal healing.

Please be sure to get clearance from a healthcare practitioner before starting yoga and if you have any work-related injuries to inform the instructor before class so that they can modify their sequence accordingly.  


My Twenties; Living at Warp Speed

I’ll be turning 30 in a couple of weeks, and I’ve been doing a lot of reflection since the New Year and it’s crazy how much has changed in a year and how much I’ve grown too. Last year, I committed myself to my healing and ending my twenties on a positive note so that I can enter my thirties with joy instead of fear. I had no idea what my year would look like, or if it would even work, but at the same time I felt like I had no choice. I know people say that you can do whatever you put your mind to, and of course we all know this to be true. However, you don’t really realize just how far you’ve come unless you take the time to look. So that’s what I’m going to do, I’m going to take a look back at my twenties, give thanks, show myself some love and share some of the lessons that I’ve learned.

Lesson 1: I Move at Warp Speed, and I need to learn to slow down

I have a shit ton of energy. I’m like the energizer bunny when I’m excited and motivated. There is no stopping. This is both a blessing and a curse. For one thing; I get a lot of shit done and I get it done quick. Decide to switch careers? BAM new job, in a new industry in like 2 and a half months. Maybe it’s divine timing? Or a mix of divine timing and my strength of will? Who knows. The point is, I’ve done a lot of things, but I easily forget. I need to stop and remind myself to reflect and breath. That was what I realized I needed the most last year when I decided to get better. I never really took a lot of time in my twenties to reflect upon what I was doing, where I was going, or who I was going with. My twenties were a blur until I began approaching my thirties and I didn’t like where I was. When you move as quickly as I do, and you don’t spend enough time with yourself, you begin to loose sight of who you are, what you want, and what you need to be happy and fulfilled. That’s what happened to me. Suddenly, nothing felt right. When in reality, things didn’t feel right for a while. I just never took the time to be with myself to figure out why or how to change it. Not until I became deeply depressed.

Having depression forced me to finally slow down. I didn’t realize how tired I was or how much I really needed to rest, re-group, and restore myself in all aspects of my life. I was exhausting myself, my finances, my relationships, everything until I literally couldn’t give anymore or take anymore either. I had nothing left. I didn’t know how to stop. It doesn’t help that I’m full of pride either. I could not let anyone know how much I was suffering. I did not want to give up the life I had or the life I thought I “should” have. Even if all the methods I was using to have that life weren’t working. Even if it wasn’t making me feel good. Even if the return on investment wasn’t worth it. I did not want that to be known. I would just do my best to continue, business as usual, because in my mind it wasn’t anyone else’s problem. I just had to figure out how to make it all work so that no one would know. Can you see the hamster wheel I was running on? I’m unhappy, I don’t like the work I’m doing, I’m not making much money, I want to be independent but I don’t know how to do that because the job I’ve chosen, and my lifestyle etc. don’t fit into the life I want to have, and here I am frantically trying to close the gap!!! Imagine the terror, and anxiety of trying to make everyone happy, always saying yes to everyone else’s plans because you have no real plans for yourself anymore because you find your own life so overwhelming. Then WHAM! Life puts the breaks on hard and I threw my hands up in the air. That’s it. No more running Alex. You’re out of gas, there’s nothing left in the tank and you need to surrender.

It was terrifying at first to surrender, but at the same time it was also the most beautiful and loving thing I could have ever done for myself. It was hard to admit that I didn’t know everything, and that the way I was living wasn’t working. Not everything in my life was broken, but enough to make me unhealthy and unhappy. For someone who preaches health and wellness, I wasn’t really practicing what I preached. Another frog I had to swallow. Last year was the most humbling year of my life. I volunteered at a yoga studio for the majority of the year every Friday evening in exchange for yoga. I spent a lot of evenings and weekends alone with a kitty cat, journaling, meditating, reading, watching Netflix; just resting and getting my body and my mind right. I cooked a lot this past year. I danced and I sang a lot too. I cried a lot, I laughed a lot, but the most transformative thing for me was that I was honest. I opened my heart and let it all out. I let go of my pride, broke down my walls and let it all hangout here on this blog. I was more honest with myself, and therefore more honest with friends and loved ones. This helped strengthen my relationship with myself and others as well. For me, there is nothing I value more than the relationships that I’ve built. However, I learned the hard way that the most important relationship that you build is the one you build with yourself. So that’s what I did, I slowed down and focused solely on myself. I was never good at just focusing on myself, and that’s why I needed to go so far off in the opposite direction and really just BE with myself. In my thirties I will definitely continue to implement the lessons that I’ve learned in my twenties and really make myself, and my happiness a priority. Slowing down, rest, and relax. You don’t need to hyperventilate or freak out to prove that you care about someone or something. You can’t control everything, you can only control yourself. So if you do your best to be your best every single day, then chill!!!! Cause there’s literally nothing else you can do. Work hard babe, but rest hard too! You deserve it!


One last peak at 2018 before I fully embrace 2019

I took just over a two week break from blogging for the holidays. I really just wanted to be with my family and friends. I spent a lot of time reflecting and remembering what things were like for me at this time last year. Man, last year at this time I was so fucking scared. It seems like a long time ago in comparison to how I feel right now; but at the same time it feels like it was just yesterday when I had a full breakdown at New Years Eve 2018. All I could think about was how unhappy I was and how badly I wanted and needed things to change. I was determined to get myself out of my despair, and to make some serious changes in my life but I was also so unsure of how I was going to do it, or if all the things I had planned out for myself in 2018 would work out.Despite all the confusion and fear, I didn’t know what else to do. So, I put my faith in God and wrote my first blog post of 2018. I literally couldn’t sleep, all I could think about was how I needed to get my emotions, my intentions out and blogging was the only thing that felt right. It was the only thing I could do. So, alone in my room listening to J. Cole I made my intentions for 2018 public and used that post as a mark for the very first day of the rest of my life.

Writing that blog post at the time may seem arbitrary to some, but it was the grandest gesture of love that I had done for myself in a really long time. It was also the most honest thing that I had written in a really long time. I don’t know about you, but for my entire life, whenever I would get really scared, I would not be able to make a single sound. Riding roller coasters as a kid, there would be moments where the fear that comes with the thrill of those rides would literally take my breath away. My stomach would fall out of my butt, and I would be mute until the fear went away and suddenly my voice would come back. That’s what it felt like when I was in the depths of my despair. I just shut down entirely. I would ball my eyes out and punish myself ruthlessly for being in such a bad place. This would only keep me from making healthy decisions. It was a vicious cycle of me being sad and afraid, putting on a brave face because I couldn’t let anyone really know just how afraid I felt because it would only make me feel more afraid. Then I would make some unhealthy decision to try and numb the fact that I was deeply afraid, and I had monsters that I just couldn’t bring myself to face. Then I would feel guilty for making that unhealthy decision. And the wheel keeps spinning.

Eventually, I would feel so much guilt that I would feel guilty about every decision that made me happy because I didn’t think I deserved happiness. I felt like I was fucking up so much at life that I didn’t deserve to go out, see my friends, spend any money on myself; anything really. I felt like I didn’t deserve anything. I would date guys who were so emotionally unavailable that when I needed them the most they were nowhere to be found. I mean they could literally be in the same room as me, and it would fee like I was completely alone. It was fucking exhausting. This mental warfare that I was raging against myself was exhausting. So exhausting that it prevented any motivation to do anything. I would Netflix and chill with the cat on a steady basis.

I’m heavily extroverted but I would only see my friends at party situations so that it would be really difficult to speak honestly with them. These were just some of the tactics I used to keep myself at an arms length from the people who cared about me the most. I fought a lot with my family. I lied a lot to them because I was so afraid of letting them know how much of a disappointment I was. I was so ashamed. No one had to shame me, and if they did, they were just reflecting the shame I was putting on to myself. I could see how afraid my parents were for my well-being, and their fear only added gasoline to the fire that I felt was blazing all around me. It was so hard to be around them because they reminded me of all the fear that I felt on a constant basis. Everything that I was too afraid to face, they would in a lot of ways would force me to face by being afraid themselves.

These were the fears, and feelings that I had walking into 2018. This was all my emotional baggage that I had to finally face in order to move my life forward in a constructive way. Looking back now, I’m so grateful to all of the people in my life who were honest with me. The people who helped me to take a deep look into the mirror and to see myself not for all my faults, and mistakes, but as a human being. Someone who is flawed but perfect and beautiful at the same time. Thank you Alexandra Rinaldo for listening. Thank you for being patient, loving, and understanding with yourself. Thank you for taking the time to take proper care of yourself and your dreams. Thank you for loving yourself enough to commit to yourself 150%. Thank you for being honest. Thank you for choosing to step towards the light despite how dark everything seemed to be. Thank you for finding your voice. Thank you for speaking out. It is because of you Alexandra that you can look back at this time last year with kindness in your heart. You can look back with loving eyes and with pride because of how far you’ve come. The Alexandra that you were then hasn’t gone just yet but you are much closer to letting that person go than ever before. She’s fading into the background. One day you won’t be able to recognise her. When that day comes it will be bittersweet; just like this blog post; full of love.

This year, as I had stated in my last blog post; https://alexrinaldo.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/concluding-2018-my-intention-recap/ I will be focusing on bringing more love into my life. I could not think of a better way to start doing that then by spending time with the people who love me most, this includes time that I devoted completely to myself. Something that I didn’t particularly enjoy before 2018. However, it was during 2018 that I had to learned how to be happy with myself, and by myself. I had to learn to love myself again in order to find my power. Without love, there would be no way that I would believe that I had any power at all. I’m still working on it but man has the love for myself grown. I feel so much happier and at peace with myself. I’m a lot more confident and optimistic for this year because I feel like I’ve put in the work. I’m ready to reap the benefits. I made a lot of hard choices. I humbled myself like I’ve never been humbled before. I poured my heart out onto the internet. I volunteered to clean a yoga studio every Friday evening in exchange for yoga. I decided to leave fitness entirely and to change my career path completely. I left my place in Liberty Village to move back into my parent’s place for a little while so that I could take better care of my health, save some money, and switch career paths. None of these decisions have been easy but they’ve been right. I know they’re right because the more I listen to myself and trust myself the quicker my life seems to improve. I feel so much more in touch with who I am as a person then I’ve felt in a really long time. I’m going to keep loving myself in this way because I know that this love will continue to spill out into all of my relationships, and life pursuits. There is literally nothing you can’t accomplish with a heart full of love.


Concluding 2018: My Intention Recap

The theme for me this month was to reflect on the Intention I set at the beginning of the year last year based on the Soul Map I did this time last year in December. I recently re-read and re-did my Soul Map, and looking back it’s crazy to see how much I’ve grown in the past year. Based on my Soul Map, my intention for the year 2018 was to regain or to “find my power.” It’s crazy how much more powerful I felt once I let myself feel all my feelings, work through them and then let them go. It feels like in 2018 I did one huge life detox! I had to step away from life for a bit so that I could heal past wounds and I decided to share my experience along the way via this blog. I realised this year just how much you gain from vulnerability and just being real. This was probably the most powerful lesson I’ve learned this year. There is strength in numbers, but no one can really join your team or be there for you when you need them if you’re not honest about who you are and what you need.

I knew I would heal so much faster if I was just honest about how I was feelings about everything. Why hide so much about yourself from people? What is that going to achieve? I have realised more now than ever before that this is causing more harm than good. I feel much healthier, and capable in my life now than I’ve felt in a really long time and that’s only because I have been working so diligently on my own healing. Because I’ve taken myself more seriously; in all aspects of my life, I feel so much more important, and powerful. I forgot just how many people give a fuck about me! Writing this blog always reminds me of that. People contact me via social media, in the comments of this blog, via text, via phone call, or a one on one hangout to tell me that they have taken the time to read my blog and how much they’ve felt like they could relate or that they enjoyed it. Man! Knowing that makes my heart want to burst right out of my chest. In a Care Bear kind of way… Not in some gross American Horror Story kind of way. 

I’m so happy that you read and care about me but also to know that what I’ve been writing has helped you in some way. You have no idea how much that inspires and motivates me to do more?! There is nothing in this world that I want to do more than to help others. Again, it reminds me how much stronger we are in numbers. How much we gain from relating to one another. There’s so much you could learn from your neighbour if you just took the time to reach out, and extend a little love. Genuinely ask people how they’re doing. Show them you care. Call them, and ask how are you? And if you’re not satisfied with how that person answered that question, ask them the same question in another way. Listen to them. They will open up once you’ve built that trust with them. Once that person sees how much you genuinely care about their well-being they will be more forthright with their feelings. I’m so glad that I could create such a community of trust and mutual love around my blog. For myself and for those who take the time to read it. My gratitude towards you all is so great you don’t even know. The good vibes around this space is so good, and that is so great because it hasn’t always been so easy to be so vulnerable and transparent on this website. I did my best to protect the people involved but I’m glad that I was able to share my story. I will continue to share my stories because it has been such a great tool for mutual healing, I’m not going to let the fact that I can’t control how people interpret my words stop me from being honest about how past traumas have impacted my life. I know that these stories impact more people than just myself, and that’s why I speak only about my love and forgiveness. I never mean any harm when I write, I just want to heal. 

Writing this blog has always been such an empowering tool for me and it has been monumental in helping me grow as a human being in more ways than just one. I’ve been taking workshops about how to improve my web content and how to extend my reach. This blog and the people who read my blog are the reasons why I take my writing so seriously. It’s helping me and others and I know that what I’m beginning to create here online is such a powerful tool. I know that my stories are valid. I want to validate other people, especially women. Women need find ways to validate their own feelings and personal stories. It’s okay to be honest about how you feel. It’s okay to talk about the parts of our lives that we don’t feel so good about. Not talking about it only makes the situation worse. It keeps us isolated from one another. The more you don’t talk about your unhappiness, the more you try to repress it to “save” someone else from hurting their feelings is only pulling you apart from those you love. When you speak of your unhappiness, it’s not a reflection of yourself or the people in your life. What you are speaking about is a common lived experience and your perspective on what happened and how it affected you. Because you have a different lived experience than anyone else involved, you will have a different perspective on the events that occurred. It does not make you “wrong” if how you feel about a situation differs from someone else. If we continue to try and punish one another for the pain we’ve caused each other we will never be able to move on and grow in love. 

Lack of honest communication, as well as forgiveness towards yourself and everyone involved is the reason the pain festered and grew into the toxic monster that keeps everyone apart. If we were able to express our feelings more freely, in a way that was loving and not abusive, we would probably still have more relationships with the people we used to love so much. These are the things that I’m trying to move further and further away from. There’s too many people in my life that I love with all my heart that I would never want to continue to feel any sort of distance from. The closer we allow ourselves to get with one another the stronger we become as a community. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. So think of the children that are coming to your families or circles of close friends. These are the next generation of adults. It is up to us to show them what love and compassion is. If we can’t do it for ourselves, how are they supposed to learn? 

My intention for the coming new year is to grow my love. Grow my love for myself, my friends, my family, and generally anyone I come into contact with. I’m going to do my absolute best to try and be the best version of myself to everyone, even if they are not necessarily the same towards me. I will still have boundaries. I will not accept people’s negative behaviour but I will not allow their choices affect my behaviour. At least in theory. This is going to be my greatest challenge. It is really hard for me to not be so reactionary. I was raised in a way that if you didn’t have a big reaction to something you “didn’t care enough.” So much drama. I am a dramatic person, but I’m sure I would live a happier life if I choose to listen before reacting or becoming defensive. If I choose to breath before freaking out. If I choose to find the love in the situation instead of becoming defensive. Like I’ve said before, there is so much strength in numbers, and to grow your numbers you need to create a space and community for love, compassion and forgiveness. That is what I want to continue to do for myself and others. I will grow love through presence, listening, and understanding, or at least I will try my best. I’m sure there will still be some drama in my life, but I hope that through the intentions that I’ve set out for myself, I’ll be better equipped to handle them. I don’t think this is a one year sort of intention, but neither was my intention from last year. They are starting to become my life mantras. Decisions that I’m making for how I want to aspire myself to be as much as possible for the rest of my foreseeable future.  


The Four Step Process of Forgiveness

I’ve talked a lot about forgiveness on my blog, and forgiveness has been a major theme for me this year. I did not realise until this week that there is an actually process to forgiving someone, especially someone who you felt has deeply wronged you. This past weekend I was reminded of the deep seeded anger that I felt towards someone who I felt had deeply wronged me in the past. I thought that I had forgiven this person but the anger I felt told me that I was wrong, and I still had some work to do. So, I logged back on to BetterHelp, the online therapy tool I’ve been using and saw that there was a “forgiveness worksheet” that my therapist had given me that I never completed. I took a whole day to complete the worksheet, and then the very next day I was listening to my favourite podcast Dissect where the major theme just happened to be forgiveness. At the end of the show, the host talked about The Enright Process Model of Psychological Forgiveness. The very same process model I used the day before! God has a strong sense of irony, and I took it as a sign that I’m on the right path and that this is something that I should share with others as well.

So, without further ado, I will explain the four step process of forgiveness. But first, let me explain what forgiveness is. According to Enright, forgiveness is the “foregoing of resentment or revenge” when the wrongdoers actions deserve it and instead giving the offender gifts of “mercy, generosity and love” or “beneficence” when the wrongdoer does not deserve them. In other words, when people forgive, they basically give up the anger to which they are entitled and give to their offender a gift to which he or she is not entitled. How long and painful the forgiving process is all depends on the seriousness of the event, and how long the person has lived with and/or denied the severity of the harm caused. I decided to explain what forgiveness is first before describing the actual process of forgiveness because a common and major obstacle to forgiveness is misunderstanding what forgiveness is. “Forgiveness stands on the truth that what happened to me was unfair, it is unfair, and it will always be unfair, but I will have a new response to it.”- Robert Enright. Forgiveness is a moral virtue like patience or kindness and it must be practised on a continual basis with everyone we meet. It takes strength, courage, and discipline to decide to forgive and to continue to practice forgiveness every single day despite the injustices we may face. It is easy to respond to injustice with malice, revenge, anger, hate, even if those feelings never get expressed. I tend to repress these feelings as a way to make them “go away” so I can go on as if this person never hurt me and I’m “okay.” No. Forgiveness is feeling those feelings, understanding where they came from, deciding to forgive them or let those feelings go; then find compassion for the person who hurt you by trying to understand where they might be coming from, and then accepting the fact that despite the injustice of their actions, we cannot change it and the only way to heal is to have love and compassion for all parties involved. 

Step One: The Uncovering Phase 

It is during this phase that you confront the nature of the offence and uncover the consequences of having been offended. It is during this phase that you must objectively as possible describe who did what to whom. You cannot forgive an offence that did not occur, however, you may be able to resolve the anger aroused by a perceived offence when the actual nature of the offence is understood. This part I did with my therapist, someone who is objective. I highly suggest doing this, because it’s hard to look at the event itself and sometimes it’s hard to look past the traumatic event to see all the consequences you suffered. Especially if you’re the type of person who tends to repress your negative feelings. In order to uncover the consequences of what happened it is important to see not only the original unfairness of the event, but also your reactions to the injustice and how it has affected your life. A therapist can help you see the connection between not having forgiven and the experience of various physical or psychological difficulties that are the result of suppressed or repressed anger. This may involve discovering and working through various layers of pain in addition to justifiable anger. These layers of pain may look like: shame, guilt, obsessive thoughts about the offender and/or thoughts about the offence, temporary or permanent life changes due to the offence, and changes in one’s view about the justice of the world and of God. Lastly, when you uncover the pain and trauma from past events or injuries caused by an offender, you learn that you cannot psychologically forgive certain actions like abuse, or drunk driving but you can forgive the offender for the secondary consequences of their actions; emotional pain, distress and loss. 

Step Two: The Decision Phase

During this phase a person gains an accurate understanding of the nature of forgiveness and makes a decision to commit to forgiving based on this understanding. Forgiveness is and must be a free choice. For me, I decided to forgive my offender because I realised that what I was doing to try and overcome the harm and suffering caused by the offence was not working. I was still angry, I still held resentment and even though I have no direct contact with this person, when I would learn of their continued attempts to hurt me all of my anger would come boiling up to the top. I would get so upset and concerned with the fact that they couldn’t see the harm they were causing. I would get upset at the fact that I was not doing anything to cause them pain yet they still felt the need to cause me harm. I would get upset over the injustice of this all. I finally realised that this person may never stop trying to cause me harm, but I can choose how I react to their attempts to cause me harm. The more I react with anger, the more damage is caused to my well-being, and the more time and energy I waste being upset over something that may never change. That is why I have decided to forgive them. Not because they deserve it but because I deserve happiness. 

Third Step: Work Phase

This is the phase where you actually work on forgiving. In this phase a person gains a cognitive understanding of the offender and begins to view the offender in a new light. For me, I have no real relationship with my offender and to be honest I don’t know much about them. This lack of understanding was a major roadblock in my ability to forgive them. In order for me to gain some understanding and compassion for my offender, I had to ask one of the people closest to them for some background information. When you begin to try and understand your offender and see them in a new light this results in a positive change towards the offender, the self, and the relationship as a whole. It is during this phase that you begin to see your offender as a human being and not as “evil incarnate.” Once you start to think differently towards your offender, you can begin to feel more positively towards them. This leads to feelings of empathy and compassion for those who have hurt you most. You courageously bear the pain caused by the offence and eventually you bear the gift of forgiveness to your offender. This phase is called the “work phase” because it is the most challenging phase but also the most rewarding. Forgiveness is difficult but it is impossible without understanding and compassion for the other. Don’t feel like you need to rush through this phase. Take your time. Just be honest in your attempt to see your offender as human. 

Fourth and Final Step: The Deepening Phase 

I would say that I am currently in this stage of forgiveness, especially after all the work that I did recently in trying to understand my offender and where they might have been coming from during the offence. This is the phase where you find increased meaning in the suffering you endured. You begin to feel more connected with others, you begin to experience decreased negative affects and, at times, a renewed purpose in life. I would say that this is currently how I feel. It is through the process of forgiveness that I have put myself through for all the traumatic experiences I’ve had in the past that has given me a new sense of purpose and connection to others. It is through this blog that I’ve found connection and healing, which is why I continue to share my experiences. It is through my writing that I deepen my forgiveness and compassion that I feel towards others.

It is during the process of forgiveness that you may find release from the emotional prison of choosing not to forgive, of bitterness, anger and resentment. It is through the deepening phase that you may find meaning in the things you suffered from. You may even find yourself asking for forgiveness for the pain you may have caused others, or even your offender if it applies. For me, I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to apologise for any harm I may have caused my offender. I do take responsibility for my reactions to the injustice I felt I was experiencing at the time. Either way, I am choosing to forgive, to learn, and to move past those experiences. 

Those are the four phases of forgiveness. Like anything in life, the process of forgiveness is not necessarily linear. You may find yourself oscillating back and forth from one phase to another. The objective is to choose forgiveness, to try to find understanding for the other, which will hopefully lead to some compassion and empathy towards your offender. This will eventually lead to forgiveness, and then a deepening of that forgiveness which comes from a deeper sense of meaning for all the things that happened. 

“‘Men who lack conscious will even lie to themselves. A friend once said and I even found it to be true, that everyday people, they lie to God too. So what makes you think that they won’t lie to you.’ The dishonest people Ms. Hill speaks of, live a life based on a complex series of lies. First, and most importantly, they lie to themselves falsely justifying their behaviour and character which allows them to lie to their family, partners and friends, and God. Ultimately this passage lends insight to one’s ability to forgive. If we view the malice of others as acts of ignorance. As acts rooted in their own self deception, insecurity and unhappiness. We realise that their behaviour is unconscious expressions of those insecurities and unhappiness. With this understanding we can evolve from viewing these acts as completely unrelatable. Rather, they’re extreme representations of emotions we all experience. This provides a pathway to empathy. And with practice we can pray for rehabilitation not retaliation. We can empathise rather than exasperate or escalate. We can forgive but not forget.” Cole Cuchna Dissect Podcast MS1E6.


Remembering Who You Are; Part Three

I have been thinking over and over again about how I would like to write this article. I was mostly thinking about how grateful I am; you know, counting my blessings. When I realized that what I really want to say is so much more than just gratitude even though that is a major part of it. I’ve learned so much this year that I cant help but share it! Not only does this keep it fresh in my mind, but when you share love, love comes back to you. Remembering who I am and where I came from has had a profound effect on my life, and how I see myself and my circumstances and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Spending a lot of quality time with family earlier in October reminded me of where a lot of these gifts came from. I am so grateful to God for showing me so much about my life that I couldn’t live without. Literally. Practices that keep me at my best, practices that have prevented me from falling further into depression, God has taught me through my family. It is because of the lessons that my family has taught me that I was able to build my own strong family of friends. People who support me in all aspects of my life. I couldn’t be more grateful for the quality relationships that I have been able to establish throughout my life. The fact that I have many people who take the time to think about me at all is amazing! It fills my heart with so much joy to know the love that exists in my life and I’m so grateful that I’ve learned to take the time to appreciate it all because it is so easy to forget when we get caught up in the daily grind of life. You can easily get swept away in the tidal waves of emotions that a single person can experience in one day.

However, it is through the very humbling experience of learning how to properly take care of all aspects of my well-being that  I was able to recognize these gifts and implement them into my life. My Nonno Dino on my Dad’s side of the family is to me, a symbol of what it means to take care of yourself. He taught me a lot about what it means to be the best version of yourself every single day. I am so proud that he is my Grandfather. Our relationship wasn’t always perfect but he has given me a tremendous gift, and I am forever grateful. Nonno Dino is a leader, someone who walks the walk, and leads by example. I went with my Father to visit my grandparents during the Thanksgiving weekend. I’m glad that all things considered, they are relatively healthy, and happy. However, my Nonno recently turned 87, and his health is significantly better than the health of my Nonna who is 82. Nonna, who has always been your typical 1950s house wife of Italian decent, was always taking care of and putting everyone else’s well-being above her own. A lot of people confuse “well being” with physical safety. A lot of people think that if you’re not currently experiencing a mortal threat, then you aren’t in danger. Reading this, I’m sure you know that, that is not true. You need to pay attention to the warning signs before they get to an unavoidable situation.

However, it is never too late! Obviously, the sooner the better, but I will never deny someone who needs to be healed, because I know that every person who comes to you in pain is an opportunity to heal both you and them. That is why I take this blog so seriously. My grandmother has Dementia, and she has literally lost the ability to take care of herself. My grandfather who has always made a practice of self-care is in relatively good health. Other than a pacemaker, he still exercises everyday and does his best to take care of my grandmother in any way he can. He’s even learned how to do simple cooking and cleaning. The only reason he was able to learn these new skills so late in life is because he has very strong habits built into his everyday life. Skills that he’s learned at a very young age. For my entire life, my grandfather has always exercised. Every day, he does some sort of physical activity. He has always been active his whole life. He played soccer, skied, he lifted weights, gardened, rode his bike, or at the very least he would go on a walk with Nonna every day after dinner. He still gardens, goes for walks, completes household chores. He’s in excellent shape for an 87 year old man.

My grandfather would keep his mind active, he was always working on something. I remember as kids, my grandfather had a huge garden. He grew grapes, he had apple and pear trees, a tomato garden, he grew so many different types of vegetables! He made his own wine and moonshine. He would fix his own car, he had many habits, hobbies and skills. He would always say things like, “if you don’t use it, you loose it.” He’s right. My grandmother spent the majority of her life, thinking and worry about other people. She didn’t take much time for herself to pursue her hobbies. She didn’t exercise as much as my grandfather did. I’m not blaming my grandmother. Her circumstances were completely different. She didn’t have the same freedoms and societal expectations as my grandfather. However, it is because of the sacrifices that my entire family has made, that I am able to grow up in a situation where I can look back and see the difference. I have the choice. Thank you God for helping me to see these important gifts that both my grandparents have given me, and my entire family. Thank you for helping recognize the importance of choice, and how much power I have over my own well being.

In reality, my grandparents are the reason why I live in Canada. My grandparents on both sides of my family made huge sacrifices. Left Italy and everything they knew to start over in Canada. Yes, their siblings came with them, but at the end of the day all they really had were one another. It was because of them that I have the amazing parents that I have, and the life that I have. It’s not just the importance of self-care that I’ve learned from my grandparents but all of the greatest life lessons have come from them. If they can come to a new country, learn a new language, find jobs, build a family and a home from nothing, there is nothing that I cannot do. My nonni (grandparents) inspire me every single day when I think back and realize all that they have done for me, I don’t think I know of a greater love.

Photo of Nonno Dino Rinaldo, Nonna Maria Rinaldo and Nonna Maria Battaglia

My Grandparents celebrating “Grandparent’s Day” (my Mom’s idea). Missing Nonno Battaglia who passed away before this photo was taken.


I Just Wanted You to Know…

Dear: Young Alexandra Rinaldo,

There are just a few things that I wanted you to know. I’ve realized a lot of things this year, and one of the biggest things I’ve realized is that I forgot who I was. I let a lot of darkness into my life, and this darkness dimmed my light. I decided that since this year is almost over, I would write out a few of the lessons that I’ve learned. Let this serve as a reminder of all the things you know deep in your heart to be true so that you may never again forget who you are.

four year old Alexandra Rinaldo in a dress and curls at a wedding

I brought this young photo of you home with me to Toronto, you’re probably 4 or 5 years old here. I know, you look older, but you’ve always looked older than your age during your childhood. You always had this maturity about you. I took this photo because it reminds me of you Alexandra. This is you at your best. This is you at your highest version. To me, there is no other photo that is as authentically you as this one. This photo also reminds me of one of your most vivid memories where you were able to attend a wedding that not many kids were allowed to go to, including your sisters. For the first time since sisters was born, you were able to have both of your parents all to yourself. Not only that, you got a new dress, shoes, and your hair professionally done. Look at you! Shining with your hair done, nails done, everything did! Holding a fancy champagne glass with punch! Work it girl! Plus you just have this look of confidence in your face. Who are you at 4/5 years old?! A Queen that’s for sure! And you knew it. I remember the feeling of being this tiny human under the giant dryer dome with rollers in your hair feeling special as fuck. Not only were you the only child in the salon, you were there right when it opened, so you basically had the place to yourself. I just wanted you to know that you are special, you are beautiful, and you most definitely are a Queen. You don’t have a crown in this photo but its implicitly there. Never forget who you are Alexandra. For a child of 4 or 5 years old, you seem pretty damn sure of it!

There was a time where you let the opinions of others rule how you felt about yourself. You needed a ton of validation to have yourself feel a little bit like the princess in this photo. Girl, you don’t need it. I just wanted you to know that your worth has never changed no matter what other people may have felt about you. Whatever negativity that was pushed your way, especially as a child, had absolutely nothing to do with you! Those adults who told you, you were too fat, called you “chubbina,” “husky,” or whatever is bullshit and they are just projecting their own self-hate unto you. Sucks, but it’s true. I just thought you should know because it’s so easy to forget. And your body or your beauty isn’t the most important thing about you. There was a good part of your life where you believed this to be true. You’ve spent part of your life hating your body and the way you looked, then when you realized that only a few people thought you were ugly but the vast majority thought the opposite, you spent the rest of the time trying to look “perfect.” Obsessing over your makeup, hair, and clothes. You love dressing up, and I will never tell you to stop but I will tell you that you don’t need to worry so much about your appearance. You’re beautiful baby with or without makeup, and boys liked you when you felt fat, ugly, and insecure, so chill. You have so much more to offer the world than just the way you look and people won’t ever be able to see that if you can’t see that for yourself.

This brings me to my next lesson; don’t be afraid of your intelligence. Don’t hide your intelligence because you think that people might like you more for it. It is such a waste of time and energy. You will always be intelligent, God gave you this gift! Don’t let it go to waste because you think that being beautiful is more important. It’s not. Your body has absolutely no worth without the power of the mind, I just thought you should know. Your mind has the power to create anything. It has the power to build you up or break you down but only you decide that. You’ve spent too much time using your own mind against yourself. All of the prayers, and pep talks you’ve given yourself, keep that shit up! It is the biggest factor to your success. This is something you will have to re-learn later on in life. Meditation, yoga, and your spirituality have been some of the greatest gifts to your sanity and the health of your mind. When your mind is healthy, everything else follows.

“Mind over matter is magic, I do magic.” – Frank Ocean

Alexandra, you have always given such good advice to everyone else but yourself. This is not the first time that I’ve told you this, but I want to make sure that it’s clear. When you speak to others and give them love, remember that you need to hear it too. Each and every person that comes into your life is an opportunity for you to grow as a human being and become closer to God. When you share love, you are sharing the holy spirit that is inside of you. We are all in this together. We are all souls living a human experience, and the best thing you could ever do for yourself and for others is to share love. Alexandra, your love was never meant for everyone else but you. No! It’s meant for you so that you can share it with the world, I just wanted you to know.

Alexandra, you will never know of your magnitude but know that it exists. Every time you think you don’t have an impact in this world, I want you to think about all the people in your life and the impact that they have had on you. I’m sure you can think of countless people who have affected you in some way. If you want to be successful, you have to share your magnitude with others. It is in your bigness or your light where people and things grow. This light will forever exist in your heart even when you have chosen to deny this for yourself. This denial of love for yourself comes from a deep sense of guilt and it will lead you to sorrow and pain, but know that you will find your way back. All roads lead to heaven. Even if you choose to go through the dark for a bit, there is always light and love and the end of the tunnel. Where does this guilt come from? It comes from all the pain, hurt, and fear that you’ve held in your heart. In an attempt to free yourself of this pain, you tried to project it onto others by blaming them for your hurt. However, the more you blame others, the bigger the victim you become and the more guilt you’ll feel. Guilt is a prison of the heart. It’s heavy, it weighs you down, and holds you in place. Nothing really grows in darkness except for darkness. Baby if you want to be happy, you need to understand that no one is guilty and no one is to blame for the things of the past. We are all just trying to do our best here on earth, and you don’t need accept darkness into your life. The only reason why those things of your past hurt you so much is because you believed them to be true. You chose darkness over light. You decided to make yourself small because you didn’t know of your magnitude. You are not small and no matter how many times others may try to make you small they never can, unless you allow them to.

Alexandra, life doesn’t happen in your past or in your future. Neither of them exist because neither of them are happening right now. Weird, I know. Life is happening right now, and if you keep holding on to the past, you will keep repeating it in your future, while you completely miss what’s happening right now. Presence is the single most important lesson of your entire life. It is in the present where peace and happiness lies, it is also where God lives. The more you focus on the present the better you’ll be able to see and experience God and all the joy that comes with it. Literally nothing else in this world matters, I just thought you should know. How do you become more present? Do shit you LOVE! Things that make you smile from the inside out. For us Alex, that’s food, eating food, cooking food, sharing food. It’s music!!! It’s dance, it’s books, it’s yoga, it’s your family and friends. It’s cats, or just animals in general. It’s nature, it’s sunlight. So many things! Take a moment to enjoy yourself, your talents, and the things that make you smile. That’s presence, and that’s love.

“Less morose and more present. Dwell on my gifts for a second.” – Frank Ocean

Alexandra, I don’t think that everything in life is supposed to be hard. As they say, everyone experiences pain, only you decide how long you suffer. Alex, you’ve always been very good at having fun, laughing, dancing, singing, all the fun things, keep that up! It eases the pain, and stops the suffering. However, there’s a difference between truly living life and having fun, and going through the motions in an attempt to avoid the pain. You can never avoid pain, it will always be there until you address it head on. How do you do that? You seek help from powers greater than yourself. You will never be able to get through your pain alone because life was never meant to be lived alone. Life, just like love is meant to be shared. Share your pain with God, with loved ones, with whoever you trust, and you will find the answers you need to rid yourself of pain. Hide your pain from God, from yourself, and the world, and the bigger it grows. Only light can rid yourself of darkness. Shine a light on the pain in your life, take a moment to really see it for what it is, and suddenly it’s not so scary anymore. Eventually, it all goes away. These are just some things I thought you should know.

All my love,

Alexandra Rinaldo


To: The Love of My Life

To: The Love of My Life

I’ve already written an open letter to you earlier this year and I called you my university boyfriend but we both know that’s not fair. You always have been much more than that to me. You are The Love of My Life. You were my first love and the biggest love I’ve ever had. We were young when we first started dating. In fact, I met you during Frosh Week and we were inseparable ever since until our relationship finally ended just before our fourth year.

Even though it was “over” I still saw you a lot. We had a lot of the same friends, and our school wasn’t very big. It was hard. Not to mention, you would always find a way to pull me back in. We would talk, try to work things out, and then in public or in front of our friends you would act like I didn’t even exist. It was during that time that my love for you turned to hate. It was the only way I could protect myself from you. Our relationship was toxic. It always was, but it never changed the fact that I loved you and you loved me. I loved you with all my heart, I guess that’s why I could hate you so much too. I hated you for a very long time. I thought if I hated you, you would just go away… But you never did. In fact, you never left. I just kept dating versions of you over and over again.

I even went as far as dating someone who looked, and even acted so much like you. I overheard my sister and mom talk about how much this guy reminded them of you, then I proceeded to meet up with him and call him by your name… But let me be clear, it’s not like I called him by your name once. I called him by your name THREE TIMES IN ONE CONVERSATION!!! I called him by your name, tried to apologize to him and called him by your name twice in my apology. I mean who the fuck was I kidding?! This guy was trying to tell me that I still had feelings for you, but all I kept saying was that I didn’t, and that I hated you. Hate is still a very strong feeling that I had towards you, so yes, in fact I did still have feelings for you. I was most definitely not over you. We eventually broke up, but I still chose to live in denial. Pretending that I wasn’t hurt, and just relived our toxic relationship over and over again. Each time I would feel more and more depleted. So much so, I made a conscious effort to not date at all for the past 9 months. I just knew that there was a lot of pain and hurt that I needed to finally acknowledge and let go of. Not all of it was caused by you.

When we started dating, I was going through a lot of shit with my family back home in Mississauga. Things were really hard with my Dad’s side of the family, and you were always there for me during that time. Even after we broke up, there was a huge fight that happened on Christmas Eve between myself and my sister, against my father’s side of the family. I called you that Christmas Eve because I didn’t know who else to call. You picked up. Thank you. I was so scared and alone that night.

I’m writing you this second letter because I learned a lot about love this year by loving myself really and truly. I’ve also been listening to a lot of beautiful music by Frank Ocean, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Alanis Morissette, and so on. I realized that I hated you so much because I loved you so much. I also learned that my love for you will always be there no matter how much I try to deny it and hate you instead. The difference now is that I’m finally ready to accept my love for you and let it go. When it was good it was beautiful what we had, and so I will forever cherish the good times. But I need to say my final goodbyes to you. You will always have a place in my heart, but I’m willing to let go of the pain so I can finally move on. Goodbye to the Love of My Life. I’m making more room in my heart for myself and for the Man of My Dreams. I know he exists. I just know now that I would never be able to meet him until I forgive you (check) and let go of our past (check). Our love wasn’t perfect but it was very real. I’m done pretending that nothing can hurt me, that you didn’t hurt me, and that I didn’t love you. It has only kept me stuck on you, and no matter how many times I’ve tried (and I’ve tried many, many times) I will never be able to move on properly until I let go. I love you, but I love me more. So goodbye finally, I wish you well.

Love,

Alexandra Rinaldo ❤


Self-Care, What it means to me

I know this is cheesy but before the long weekend during my meditation this line from the Shania Twain song You’re Still the One came to me as if I was saying it to myself, “looks like we made it, look how far we’ve come my baby.” This past year has been a year that I completely devoted to myself and my self-care. If you read my last article, you would have discovered that I am a Codependent who because of her codependency, had fallen into a depression. Now that I understand my codependency and how to recover from it, I no longer allow it to define me. It is through my practices of self-care that I have been able to recognize old habits, behaviours, and relationships that no longer serve me. To me, self-care is more than just your physical maintenance. It is so much deeper than that. Sure, getting your hair and nails done have you feeling better, but it is not as long-lasting. To me, self-care means taking care of all aspects of the self. It means taking care of your body, mind, and soul. Your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Self-care is not a one size fits all, and what I practice in my self-care routines may not feel authentic to you. However, my goal for this article is to have you thinking about what you can do for yourself today that will have you feeling just a little bit better about yourself and your life in general. Lately, I’ve found myself saying “vibrate a little higher Alex.” Everyday, I do my best to find a way to raise my vibration, and my sense of worth. What can I do today to make this day a little brighter, a little happier for myself and those around me? To me, that is what self-care is all about. So here are my steps to taking better care of the self:

  1. SPEND TIME WITH JUST YOURSELF:  You must spend time with yourself, so that you can eventually connect with yourself on a deeper level. You must have time completely alone so that you can get in touch with your thoughts and feeling without outside influence. You need to spend some quiet time alone so that you can get to know what your body, mind, and spirit needs. You cannot properly take care of yourself if you don’t know what you need, and the only way to find that out is to spend some good quality time with yourself. Cultivate a relationship with yourself.
  2. BE COMPLETELY HONEST WITH YOURSELF: How are you feeling? Be honest. You know when you’re lying to yourself, so don’t waste your time and energy trying to convince yourself that you’re “fine.” The universe always finds a way “to put you in your place” so to speak, and then you have no choice but to really deal with your feelings, so you might as well just be honest, and avoid any further pain. I know this sounds really simple, and it really is, however, if you’ve never taken the time to check in with yourself, this can feel really uncomfortable. It gets easier the more you practice. I promise! So, for example, if you’re feeling tired? Why is that? What is draining you of your energy? What can you do right now to recharge? What can you give back to yourself so that you can feel restored? Ask yourself these questions no matter what the feeling may be. If the feeling is happiness, sit in that feeling, soak it in, and think, how could I grow this feeling? What can I do more in my life to try to cultivate more of these good feelings? Whether the feeling or emotion is positive or negative, sit in it for a while, try your best to understand it so that you can find ways of letting it go, or letting it grow.
  3. TAKE ACTION: So, now you’re completely alone with your thoughts and feelings. You’ve been completely honest with yourself about how your body, mind, and spirit is feeling, and you’ve identified the predominant feeling, now what? Well, that is completely up to you, and intuitively you will know exactly what you need to do, or maybe there is nothing to do but to just let it be. The more time you practice being with yourself (not distracted on your phone, or watching television) the stronger your intuition becomes and the better you’ll be able to identify what you need and how to get it. This is the best part of self-care! This is the part where you nurture yourself, and give yourself all of the things that really no one else can provide. Shower yourself with love and affection.

For me, I always start my day by spending quality time alone, planning out my day, meditating, working out, sometimes I read or listen to a podcast and then feed myself my first meal of the day. I do my best to find time in the morning completely devoted to myself and my needs. Sometimes, I have to do this after some of my morning clients but I always find time for myself to be alone. This sets the tone for my entire day. This is when I’m able to identify the actions that I need to take to elevate myself in the areas that I feel need more love and attention. To me, this is self-care. Self-care is taking the time to develop a strong relationship with yourself so that you create value for yourself. The more you value yourself, the better you’ll take care of yourself, and the better others will treat you. Take care of yourself, vibrate higher, and watch your life change for the better.

Photo of Alexandra Rinaldo at Sandbanks Provincial Park wearing a pink racerback tank top

A photo of me at Sandbanks Provincial Park

 


Codependent. I’ve become a Codependent in Recovery

It’s funny, I knew that my family was codependent before I knew I was. I even told my therapist how I thought my parent’s have a very codependent relationship, not being able to really see myself. I knew my parents were codependent because I was Codependent also. In fact, I intuitively knew I was Codependent because I was already following the Twelve Step Program to Recovery for Codependents before I spoke with a therapist at all. Once Codependency was suggested to me by my therapist, I realized that, that was exactly what I was suffering from. It was so life affirming to know that I was on the right path. That I’m doing alright. I’m exactly where I need to be, and I’m going to be fucking okay! It was the biggest thing that happened to me so far this year. I’ve slowly but surely lost my confidence over the course of my twenties. I lost the ability to trust myself and to properly take care of myself as a whole. If I’m going to be real, I’ve never had so little in my entire life. So little money, so little security, so little motivation, so little energy, so little of basically everything. I’ve made myself very small. Like I tried to explain in my last post called Forgiveness which I hope you read, because forgiveness is what really got me to finally move towards a healthier, happier version of myself. Forgiveness was and is the only thing that has allowed me to forgive myself, and to finally give myself the love and compassion I deserve. I’ve been punishing myself for far too long. It is the shame, guilt, lack of self-worth, pain, anger, grief, lack of trust in everything and everyone, that has kept me in a dark place thinking that all of this obviously happened to me because I deserved it. At my very core I believed I was a bad person, who had to fight extra hard to receive love and keep it. In fact, I felt like I had to fight for everything I had in life, and I had to fight to defend it all too. Why? Well because I thought everything that was important to me would be taken away from me at any point, and I had many, many reasons as to why that would be. All of this stemmed from my childhood.

Some of you might be wondering what Codependency is and what it means to be Codependent? Well, I think Melody Beattie does the best job describing what Codependency is and how to overcome it. I bought both of her books; Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself , and The New Codependency, the second my therapist recommended Codependent No More, and they have been the most influential books for my healing. Through reading these books, I learned a lot about myself, my family, and how to finally take care of myself in the way that I need. Like I said before, I was already doing a lot of the things that Melody recommends for recovery, but she really helped to give me a deeper understanding. Plus she really does a good job of teaching you how you can apply her teachings to your life with activities and examples from her life and the lives of other Codependents she has come into contact with. So, what is Codependency? “The behaviours associated with Codependency- from controlling to caretaking are behaviours that saved our lives when we didn’t know what else to do. In most situations, whether alcoholism was involved or not, codependent behaviours are what anyone might do if he or she walked for five or ten years in our shoes… Codependency is normal behaviour, plus. There are times we do too much, feel too little, or overly engage. We forget where the other person’s responsibilities begin and our responsibilities stop. Or we get busy and have so much to do that we neglect ourselves.” (Melody Beattie) You don’t necessarily need to have addiction in your family in order for you to become Codependent. In fact, Codependency is quite common, and it starts in your childhood. That is where we learn these survival mechanisms by experiencing trauma. Trauma is anything that happened to you that you were not able to understand, and so you respond emotionally. It could be as simple as someone consistently calling you names, and making fun of you. You don’t know why this is happening to you, but it keeps happening and it hurts.

A lot of the things that hurt us as children we did not completely understand, especially if our parents or guardians never took the time to explain our pain or emotions to us. Children absorb a lot of their environment without fully understanding it, we try our best to rationalize our pain to ourselves by telling ourselves stories about why those bad things happened to us or the people we love. Usually, the explanation that we land on is that we are responsible for what happened to us, and it is because we are bad, dumb, ugly, stupid, insert any reason. These are very naive, childlike beliefs about ourselves that many of us carry on into adulthood. The only way to let go of these limiting beliefs is to  finally face the root cause of these beliefs. The root cause is the trauma that we experienced as children, all the “bad things” that happened to us. That means we need to go back to our childhood trauma, understand the pain and emotions associated with that trauma, accept what happened, and move on. We need to find the lessons in those experiences so that we can learn and grow, until you do that, you will forever repeat the same pain over and over again. You will become small, like a child.

Everybody on this earth wants to be seen, heard, and recognized. That’s all we want. We want to be understood and loved. Sometimes the trauma that we experience as children was simply not being seen or heard; feeling ignored, or abandoned in some way. This may not have even happened to us on purpose. I mean, how could our parents be the parents we needed them to be at all times? They’re human, and therefore, they have, and will continue to make mistakes. As children, we don’t understand this. As children we think our parents know everything. We only learn that our parents don’t know everything, and aren’t perfect once we begin to learn and have new experiences outside of the home. However, our brains and our bodies remember everything that has ever happened to us, whether it was a positive experience or negative experience. Especially as a child, if you cannot understand what is happening to you or around you, you will forever carry the pain and the emotions associated with that pain in your subconscious and in your body. Just because you don’t think about it all the time, doesn’t mean that it’s not there. The pain is there, and you will start to create patterns in your life that mimic the same trauma that cause you that pain in the first place. “Bad things” or the same “bad things” will keep happening until you recognize the pattern. It takes a long time, and a certain level of awareness or consciousness for you to finally accept your family’s shortcomings, and that doesn’t usually happen until adulthood. That doesn’t happen until you finally take responsibility for your own life. You see, it is not just your parents that have a major influence on your life and your beliefs. It is also your grandparents, and your siblings. It can sometimes be your cousins as well, especially if you had a very close almost sibling like relationship with your cousins. I know I did growing up. You basically need to recognize the humanity in everyone, including yourself. No one is simply bad or good, we are human. We all experience pain, and if we don’t ever find a way to overcome our pain, we will only continue to live out that pain, replay our childhood, and then pass that on to the next generation. The easy thing to do is blame someone else for our pain. They did this to me, and so therefore I’m like this. Blaming, anger, hate, denial, repression, don’t stop the pain, and they don’t end the cycle. In fact, those things keep the pain alive. It starts to become comforting because it’s all you really know. The more you do this, the more frequently you’ll repeat the pattern of trauma, and the worse the consequences.

In a nutshell, that’s basically what happened to me. I spent the majority of my life repressing my emotions and the pain associated with those emotions until I could no longer deny my own unhappiness. I became Codependent because I have been repeating my childhood pain over and over again by using the same Codependent childhood survival mechanisms. I’ve repeated the same toxic boyfriend relationship, and the same toxic best friend relationship until now. All of the pieces that I’ve written so far this year is not me trying to relish in the past, no. In fact, that’s me trying to make sense of the past, forgive my past and move on. Honestly, all I’ve ever wanted was someone to tell me that it’s going to be okay and that I’m not crazy. I finally got that when I spoke to my therapist on a phone session. She told me that my reactions to what happened to me with my family were completely normal, and that I’m going to be okay. (If you’re wondering what I used for therapy, it’s an online therapy called Better Help) I felt for the longest time that I was fucked up, that something was wrong with me, and that’s why I could never find love or happiness. Part of me knew this wasn’t true, but after repeating the same trauma over and over again it’s really hard to believe that. The more you repeat the same pain that you don’t fully understand, the more powerful your reaction to that pain is. The more emotional you become, the more bitter you become, the more naive and irrational you become. You become small, and childlike. You see this all the time. When adults have temper tantrums in the supermarket over a couple of cents on their grocery bill! They’re not upset with the cashier or the store, that’s stupid! We all know that’s stupid. They’re just projecting their own pain onto someone else because they don’t know what else to do with it. They don’t fully understand it, and they don’t want to feel this way anymore, so they do their best to get rid of it in any way they know how. I’m here to tell you that the only way to become healthy and happy again is to go through your pain. Face your pain, feel your pain and the emotions that come with it. Once you’ve weathered the storm, you can come out the other side with a deeper understanding of yourself, and the people in your life. That is when you can finally accept the things that happened to you, and move on.

Some of you may be wondering, well how do I do that? Well, in my post called Stronger Than Me I quoted the Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh where he talked about your pain and anxiety as your baby, and you must embrace that baby, take care of it, in order to get a relief. As an adult, you must go back to that inner child and explain their pain to them in order to get a relief. That does not mean that you make up a new story as to why you’re suffering, No. It means you need to detach yourself from the events that caused you pain and suffering in order to create awareness and consciousness. You need to understand that these things didn’t just happen to you, in fact they can happen to anyone, and they happen all the time. They didn’t happen to you because you “deserved it” they just happened. You need to take yourself out of the situation in order for you to be able to see clearly. It is from a state of consciousness that you will finally be able to understand the events that happened to you, find the lesson in those events, be grateful for that lesson, and move on. You can find the good in everything, you just need to be conscious in order to see it. Buddhist principles can be found in various recovery programs. Detachment and awareness are fundamental to recovery, and Buddhist traditions. Prayer, meditation, yoga, and the quest for knowledge and wisdom, are some of the things that I used to raise my level of consciousness so that I can heal myself, and move on. I was stuck for a while, not realizing how stuck I was, until I could see others moving past me. That was a painful realization for me. I was holding myself back, and I didn’t know why. Now I know why. I’m aware of my pain and what caused it. I’ve been actively letting go and becoming the person I want to be. I’m evolving and it feels so good. I’m letting go of my survival mechanisms because I no longer feel the need to survive, I want to thrive. I want to be happy, I want to grow. Now, I’m going to list some of the care-taking, hero complex, characteristics in this post so that you can have a better understanding of me, and who knows, maybe yourself? I don’t know. I’ve spent a lot of my life-giving and taking care of others because that’s all I knew. That was how I got the recognition I needed as a kid. Like I said before, all people want is to be seen, heard, and recognized. For me, I was always coming to the rescue, putting myself in the line of fire. Sacrificing myself for the good of the family. My family was my life, as a child, they were what I needed to survive, so I did everything to protect my life and my family. These behaviours became more and more self-deprecating as I grew older. The more I tried to care for others, put their needs in front of my own, save them from themselves or their situations, the more my needs got ignored. As an adult, the only person you need to take care of is yourself. When you’re a child, you don’t understand that because someone always took care of you. As a child, when we see your parents in pain or your siblings in pain, we do what we know, we react, we don’t think. So, we do what our parents did for us when we were in pain. For me, I nurtured and took care of those in pain. My first reaction was always to come to their rescue. Now that I am wiser, I understand that it is not up to me to come to anyone’s rescue. In fact, I can’t save anyone from themselves. It is exhausting to even try, and believe me, I’ve tried. Over and over again until I myself was exhausted of all my energy, and resources. I guess that’s what I needed to do to finally wake up and recognize that I have no control over anyone else, and I can’t help anyone else the way I want to if I don’t learn how to help myself first.

You see, Codependents mean well. In fact, they can be some of the most loving, generous, and caring people on earth. The problem is, many Codependents give from a deep need to be loved and accepted. They give in order to get, and they begin to feel resentful when their efforts are not appreciated in the way that they hoped. They are so busy taking care of and worrying about everyone else, that they fail to take care of themselves. In fact, many of us believe deep down that we are incapable of taking care of ourselves. We take care of others so that they in turn take care of us. We become very needy and dependent people pretending that it is the people we take care of that need us when really we need them just as much. We act as though we are the strong, and responsible ones, when really we feel very lost, but we do what we know in order to get the things we think we want. I’m very grateful that God has given me the chance to be able to see both sides of the Codependency coin. I know what it’s like to be very Codependent, but I also know what it’s like to be very independent. When I went away to school at Wilfrid Laurier University, I had the opportunity to be my own person, and it was some of the best years of my life. I paid my own rent, bought my own groceries, paid for my own reading week vacations, I worked hard, and I got to see the fruits of my own labour. It gave me a sense of confidence and a sense of self. I can’t say that I was completely independent but I got a taste of what it was like to do something completely for myself and how good that feels. Even when I did bodybuilding, that sport was completely for myself and I worked hard to move from bikini to figure in just 11 months to win second place. I’m proud of that. God has given me glimpses of what is possible for myself if I show myself the love that I deserve, if I gave myself all of my energy. I know that I can take care of myself, and in fact, I really don’t have a choice. My depression showed me that I can no longer live this way as a Codependent. I have run myself dry, I have nothing left to give to the outside world, it is now up to me to fill my own cups. I had to ask some of the people I loved the most for space so that I can do just that. That was not easy for me. For a while I didn’t know my own worth outside of my relationships with others, so I would pour my heart and soul into those relationships not realizing that they loved me for me, not for what I did for them. I didn’t realize that I was enough. That me, being myself, was enough for someone to love me and want me in their life. I know that now because even after asking for space, not only did they understand that need, they respected and loved me for it. I’m so grateful. I know that I am worthy of all the things I want in my life because I see it in others. God shows you the things that you could have through other people. God is showing you what is possible if you believe that you are worthy. How do you become worthy? Through healing, and self-care which is the highest form of self-love. You must show yourself the same love you would a wounded child for you to be able to move on and grow from any blockages in your life.

Here are some of the characteristics of Codependency. Like anything, there is a spectrum of Codependency, not all of these things will resonate with you, but, if a majority of these things resonate with you, it may be worth your time and energy to explore this further. Recovery from Codependency is not as painful as you might think. In fact, it’s really fun and exhilarating when you start to give yourself all of the things you’ve spent so much time giving to others. It feels really fucking good. Good luck guys! And if you want to connect to discuss this further? I am very open to that! I wanted to share some of the things that have been the most influential to my own personal healing because I think it’s worth sharing, you never know who might be able to relate.

Excerpted from Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself

Characteristics of Codependent People

by Melody Beattie

  • Care-taking: Codependents may:
    • think and feel responsible for other people for other people’s feelings, actions, choices, wants, needs, well-being, lack of well-being, and ultimate destiny.
    • feel anxiety, pity, and guilt when other people have a problem.
    • feel compelled almost forced to help that person solve the problem, such as offering unwanted advice, giving a rapid-fire series of suggestions, or fixing feelings.
    • feel angry when their help isn’t effective.
    • anticipate other people’s needs.
    • wonder why others don’t do the same for them.
    • find themselves saying yes when they mean no, doing things they don’t really want to be doing, doing more than their fair share of the work, and doing things other people are capable of doing for themselves.
    • not know what they want and need or, if they do, tell themselves what they want and need is not important.
    • try to please others instead of themselves.
    • find it easier to feel and express anger about injustices done to others, rather than injustices done to themselves.
    • feel safest when giving.
    • feel insecure and guilty when somebody gives to them.
    • feel sad because the spend their whole lives giving to other people and nobody gives to them.
    • find themselves attracted to needy people.
    • find needy people attracted to them.
    • feel bored, empty, and worthless if they don’t have a crisis in their lives, a problem to solve, or someone to help.
    • abandon their routine to respond to or do something for somebody else.
    • over-commit themselves.
    • feel harried and pressured.
    • believe deep inside other people are somehow responsible for them.
    • blame others for the spot the codependents are in.
    • say other people make the codependents feel the way they do.
    • believe other people are making them crazy.
    • feel angry, victimized, unappreciated, and used.
    • find other people become impatient or angry with them for all the preceding characteristics.
  • Low Self-Worth: Codependents tend to:
    • come from troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional families.
    • deny their family was troubled, repressed, or dysfunctional.
    • blame themselves for everything.
    • pick on themselves for everything, including the way they think, feel , look, act, and behave.
    • get angry, defensive, self-righteous, and indignant when others blame and criticize the codependents something codependents regularly do to themselves.
    • reject compliments or praise.
    • get depressed from a lack of compliments and praise (stroke deprivation).
    • feel different from the rest of the world.
    • think they’re not quite good enough.
    • feel guilty about spending money on themselves or doing unnecessary or fun things for themselves.
    • feel rejection.
    • take things personally.
    • have been victims of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, neglect, abandonment, or alcoholism.
    • feel like victims.
    • tell themselves they can’t do anything right.
    • be afraid of making mistakes.
    • wonder why they have a tough time making decisions.
    • expect themselves to do everything perfectly.
    • wonder why they can’t get anything done to their satisfaction.
    • have a lot of “shoulds.”
    • feel a lot of guilt.
    • feel ashamed of who they are.
    • think their lives aren’t worth living.
    • try to help other people live their lives instead.
    • artificial feelings of self-worth from helping others.
    • get strong feelings of low self-worth embarrassment, failure, etc. from other people’s failures and problems.
    • wish good things would happen to them.
    • believe good things never will happen.
    • wish other people would like and love them.
    • believe other people couldn’t possibly like and love them.
    • try to prove they’re good enough for other people.
    • settle for being needed.
  • Repression: Many codependents:
    • push their thoughts and feelings out of their awareness because of fear and guilt.
    • become afraid to let themselves be who they are.
    • appear rigid and controlled.
  • Obsession: Codependents tend to:
    • feel terribly anxious about problems and people.
    • worry about the silliest things.
    • think and talk a lot about other people.
    • lose sleep over problems or other people’s behaviour.
    • worry.
    • never find answers.
    • check on people.
    • try to catch people in acts of misbehaviour.
    • feel unable to quit talking, thinking, and worrying about other people or problems.
    • abandon their routine because they are so upset about somebody or something.
    • focus all their energy on other people and problems.
    • wonder why they never have any energy.
    • wonder why they can’t get things done.
  • Controlling: Many codependents:
    • have lived through events and with people who were out of control, causing the codependents sorrow and disappointment.
    • become afraid to let other people be who they are and allow events to happen naturally.
    • don’t see or deal with their fear of loss of control.
    • think they know best how things should turn out and how people should behave.
    • try to control events and people through helplessness, guilt, coercion, threats, advice-giving, manipulation, or domination.
    • eventually fail in their efforts or provoke people’s anger.
    • get frustrated and angry.
    • feel controlled by events and people.
  • Denial: Codependents tend to:
    • ignore problems or pretend they aren’t happening.
    • pretend circumstances aren’t as bad as they are.
    • tell themselves things will be better tomorrow.
    • stay busy so they don’t have to think about things.
    • get confused.
    • get depressed or sick.
    • go to doctors and get tranquilizers.
    • became workaholics.
    • spend money compulsively.
    • overeat.
    • pretend those things aren’t happening, either.
    • watch problems get worse.
    • believe lies.
    • lie to themselves.
    • wonder why they feel like they’re going crazy.
  • Dependency: Many codependents:
    • don’t feel happy, content, or peaceful with themselves.
    • look for happiness outside themselves.
    • latch onto whoever or whatever they think can provide happiness.
    • feel terribly threatened by the loss of any thing or person they think provides their happiness.
    • didn’t feel love and approval from their parents.
    • don’t love themselves.
    • believe other people can’t or don’t love them.
    • desperately seek love and approval.
    • often seek love from people incapable of loving.
    • believe other people are never there for them.
    • equate love with pain.
    • feel they need people more than they want them.
    • try to prove they’re good enough to be loved.
    • don’t take time to see if other people are good for them.
    • worry whether other people love or like them.
    • don’t take time to figure out if they love or like other people.
    • center their lives around other people.
    • look to relationships to provide all their good feelings.
    • lose interest in their own lives when they love.
    • worry other people will leave them.
    • don’t believe they can take care of themselves.
    • stay in relationships that don’t work.
    • tolerate abuse to keep people loving them.
    • feel trapped in relationships.
    • leave bad relationships and form new ones that don’t work either.
    • wonder if they will ever find love.
  • Poor Communication: Codependents frequently:
    • blame
    • threaten.
    • coerce.
    • beg.
    • bribe.
    • advise.
    • don’t say what they mean.
    • don’t mean what they say.
    • don’t know what they mean.
    • don’t take themselves seriously.
    • think other people don’t take the codependents seriously.
    • take themselves too seriously.
    • ask for what they want and need indirectly–sighing, for example
    • find it difficult to get to the point.
    • aren’t sure what the point is.
    • gauge their words carefully to achieve a desired effect.
    • try to say what they think will please people.
    • try to say what they think will provoke people.
    • try to say what they hope will make people do what they want them to do.
    • eliminate the word “no” from their vocabulary
    • talk too much.
    • talk about other people.
    • avoid talking about themselves, their problems, feelings, and thoughts.
    • say everything is their fault.
    • say nothing is their fault.
    • believe their opinions don’t matter.
    • wait to express their opinions until they know other people’s opinions.
    • lie to protect and cover up for people they love.
    • lie to protect themselves.
    • have a difficult time asserting their rights.
    • have a difficult time expressing their emotions honestly, openly, and appropriately.
    • think most of what they have to say is unimportant.
    • begin to talk in cynical, self-degrading, or hostile ways.
    • apologize for bothering people.
  • Weak Boundaries: Codependents frequently:
    • say they won’t tolerate certain behaviours from other people.
    • gradually increase their tolerance until they can tolerate and do things they said they never would.
    • let others hurt them.
    • keep letting people hurt them.
    • wonder why they hurt so badly.
    • complain, blame, and try to control while they continue to stand there.
    • finally get angry.
    • become totally intolerant.
  • Lack Of Trust: Codependents:
    • don’t trust themselves.
    • don’t trust their feelings.
    • don’t trust their decisions.
    • don’t trust other people.
    • try to trust untrustworthy people.
    • think God has abandoned them.
    • lose faith and trust in God.
  • Anger: Many codependents:
    • feel very scared, hurt, and angry.
    • live with people who are very scared, hurt, and angry.
    • are afraid of their own anger.
    • are frightened of other people’s anger.
    • think people will go away if anger enters the picture.
    • think other people make them feel angry.
    • are afraid to make other people feel anger.
    • feel controlled by other people’s anger.
    • repress their angry feelings.
    • cry a lot, get depressed, overeat, get sick, do mean and nasty things to get even, act hostile, or have violent temper outbursts.
    • punish other people for making the codependents angry.
    • have been shamed for feeling angry.
    • place guilt and shame on themselves for feeling angry.
    • feel increasing amounts of anger, resentment, and bitterness.
    • feel safer with their anger than with hurt feelings.
    • wonder if they’ll ever not be angry.
  • Sex Problems: Some codependents:
    • are caretakers in the bedroom.
    • have sex when they don’t want to.
    • have sex when they’d rather be held, nurtured, and loved.
    • try to have sex when they’re angry or hurt.
    • refuse to enjoy sex because they’re so angry at their partner.
    • are afraid of losing control.
    • have a difficult time asking for what they need in bed.
    • withdraw emotionally from their partner.
    • feel sexual revulsion toward their partner.
    • don’t talk about it.
    • force themselves to have sex, anyway.
    • reduce sex to a technical act.
    • wonder why they don’t enjoy sex.
    • lose interest in sex.
    • make up reasons to abstain.
    • wish their sex partner would die, go away, or sense the codependent’s feelings.
    • have strong sexual fantasies about other people.
    • consider or have an extramarital affair.
  • Miscellaneous: Codependents tend to:
    • be extremely responsible.
    • be extremely irresponsible.
    • become martyrs, sacrificing their happiness and that of others for causes that don’t require sacrifice.
    • find it difficult to feel close to people.
    • find it difficult to have fun and be spontaneous.
    • have an overall passive response to codependency–crying, hurt, helplessness.
    • have and overall aggressive response to codependency–violence, anger, dominance.
    • combine passive and aggressive responses.
    • vacillate in decisions and emotions.
    • laugh when they feel like crying.
    • stay loyal to their compulsions and people even when it hurts.
    • be ashamed about family, personal, or relationship problems.
    • be confused about the nature of the problem.
    • cover up, lie, and protect the problem.
    • not seek help because they tell themselves the problem isn’t bad enough, or they aren’t important enough.
    • wonder why the problem doesn’t go away.
  • Progressive: In the later stages of codependency, codependents may:
    • feel lethargic.
    • feel depressed.
    • become withdrawn and isolated.
    • experience a complete loss of daily routine and structure.
    • abuse or neglect their children and other responsibilities.
    • feel hopeless.
    • begin to plan their escape from a relationship they feel trapped in.
    • think about suicide.
    • become violent.
    • become seriously emotionally, mentally, or physically ill.
    • experience an eating disorder (over or undereating).
    • become addicted to alcohol and other drugs.

The preceding checklist is long but not all-inclusive. Like other people, codependents do, feel, and think many things. There are not a certain number of traits that guarantees whether a person is or isn’t codependent. Each person is different; each person has his or her way of doing things. I’m just trying to paint a picture. The interpretation, or decision, is up to you. What’s most important is that you first identify behaviours or areas that cause you problems, and then decide what you want to do.